He led the army himself / by himself.

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Senior Member
Hi, wordreference members.

What is the difference between the following:
1. He led the army himself( helped by his assistants)
2.He led the army by himself. No one helped him

I am focusing on the highlighted

Many thanks.
Lark-lover is puzzled
Last edited by a moderator:
  • Wildcat1

    Senior Member
    Amer. English
    "by himself" means "alone" (without help). "himself" can have this meaning, but can also simply stress the "he". With your army example: Often generals stay back and plan strategy. "General X led the army himself" means that he himself led the soldiers.

    Another example:
    "I fixed the car by myself". This stresses that I had no help.
    "I fixed the car myself. This simply stresses that I did it. Perhaps I had no help, or perhaps I had a little help.


    Senior Member
    I think you got it right, Lark.
    Led the army himself - as opposed to delegating authority to someone else to lead the army in his stead.
    Led the army by himself - as opposed to someone helping him; he led the army without any assistance from anyone.

    PS. Cross posted with Wildcat but I think we are saying essentially the same.
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